UK soul gets a kick up the jacksy as its premier go-to girl strikes out on her own
By name, she might not be instantly familiar. But hear Jessie Ware sing and you’ll soon recognise her as the feminine touch behind some of 2011’s best dance collaborations. Remember that powerful siren on Joker’s ‘The Vision’? That’s Jessie. The soulful garage girl on early SBTRKT cut ‘Nervous’? Ditto. Now, after spending the past 12 months making herself a key figure in south London’s underground scene, she’s breaking out on her own, swapping backing vocal guest spots with the likes of Jack Peñate for her own centre stage domination.
“I was always happy to be a backing singer because there was no pressure,” Jessie smiles as we meet her near her Brixton base. “I always thought I was just going to be a dance vocalist, but then people started taking notice of me and I kind of had to write my own stuff. I was scared for a long time but now it feels good, like it’s mine.”
She admits to having a “love/hate relationship” with songwriting but, luckily, she’s surrounded by plenty of willing helpers. Her debut album (due out in summer) features co-writes with Sampha, Julio Bashmore, Kid Harpoon and Dave Okumu of The Invisible, who’s also in charge of production. Together, they’ve created a record that Jessie describes as “classic” and “more song-based” than even she was expecting.
Don’t be fooled by the deliciously dark debut single ‘Strangest Feeling’, though – it’s not at all an overtly gloomy affair. “I’m a really happy person so I’d like to think not all my stuff’s dark,” she laughs. “[Next single] ‘Running’ is quite melodramatic, over the top. It’s me trying to tap into people that I love, like Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan.”
Combining those two worlds of soul divas and hip, underground electronics, it’s not surprising that she has already been tagged as 2012’s answer to Katy B. Jessie’s certainly got the potential to be the next big dance/pop crossover success, and it’s something she’s more than aware of herself. “I just want to have as much fun as possible with this, because you never know if you’re going to get another chance,” she explains. If she continues to do that, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would try and stop her.
Need To Know
Based: South London
For Fans Of: Katy B, SBTRKT
Buy It Now: Debut single ‘Strangest Feeling’ is out now. Follow-up ‘Running’ is out March 26 on PMR
See Her Live: Jessie supports Alabama Shakes at their NME Awards Show at London’s Boston Arms on Feb 22
Believe It Or Not: Her mum made her audition for Pop Idol. “Obviously the producers didn’t think I was entertaining enough,” she sniffs.
This article originally appeared in the February 11th issue of NME